Kindness

“The people that are the hardest to love are usually the ones that need it the most.” ~ “The Peaceful Warrior” (2006)

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits wrote yesterday about kindness, and the post really resonated with me. He focuses on the connection between mindfulness and kindness, but I was struck especially by two paragraphs. The first:

When someone comes to talk to you, when your kid tugs on your pant leg for attention, when your spouse or best friend starts speaking, turn to them without distraction, putting everything else away, and give your full attention. Listen.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and is something I’d like to get better at. Too often in our culture when we are talking to others we are merely waiting for our turn to speak; really listening is about giving all your attention to the person you’re talking to. Let’s do more of it.

The second paragraph that struck me:

Consider: when you react to others with anger or meanness, you are putting yourself in an angry mindset, a bad mood. You’ll likely feel pretty crappy for at least an hour, if not all day. When you are uncaring or indifferent to others, you also create an empty, blank feeling in yourself, a void that cannot be filled with gadgets, social networking, shopping, food, or possessions. When instead you are kind, you build a good feeling within yourself, you make yourself happy. In effect, you are being kind to yourself.

Then the second paragraph there reminds me distinctly of the mantra I learned from Gretchen Rubin, “Act the way you want to feel.” I think it’s the most powerful insight I’ve heard. Babauta casts this as a super-literal formulation of the Golden Rule: because how you act toward others has a direct effect on how you feel, you should be kind to other people for the sake of your own wellbeing!

Of course, it’s not always easy to be kind to everyone all the time; Babauta acknowledges this. But maybe keeping in mind these benefits of being kind will make it easier. When you’re tired, when a person is hurting someone or something you care about, when a person seems to care little for others. If we approach these situations with this new motivation toward kindness, maybe they will be easier to deal with! I’m excited about this.

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